You can spend $2,500 or more for the biggest, beefiest snow blowers. But our tests of almost 50 models confirm that the most capable machines can power away 18 inches or more of heavy snow—and the icy plow pile that blocks your driveway—for less than $700.
We test snow blowers in snowy upstate New York and at our Yonkers headquarters, where, in the off season, we use a special mixture of wet sawdust to reliably mimic the wettest, heaviest conditions. Along with the bargains, we found some big-name disappointments. Here are the details:
Best for most. All snow blowers use a spinning auger to scoop up snow. Compact two-stage machines feature the driven wheels and snow-slinging impeller of larger, typically pricier models in widths of 24 inches or less. Fast clearing and the ability to tear through dense plow piles put the 24-inch Craftsman 88173, a CR Best Buy at $680, at the top of the pack. Spending a bit more for the Toro Power Max 724 OE 37770, $800, buys a discharge chute designed to recycle wet snow that might otherwise cause clogs. Added space inside also eliminates the pinch point that can injure or sever fingers, a common accident if you use your hands rather than a clearing tool to unclog the chute. But skip the Murray 1696047, $590, and Yard Machines 31A-32AD, $500; their subpar throwing distance means you may have to move the same snow twice to get it off your driveway.
For bigger jobs. Full-sized snow blowers are faster and clear a wide swath, good for larger driveways. The 30-inch Craftsman 88396, $1,200, worked almost as well as the Cub Cadet 930SWE 31AH95SU and costs $600 less. A thumb-controlled joystick moves the Craftsman’s chute without the usual crank or lever, and triggers disengage either drive wheel for easy steering. A larger impeller, however, helped give the Cub Cadet the edge. As with that of the Ariens 921013, $1,400, it measures 16 inches in diameter compared with 12 to 14 inches for most large models.
If you’re clearing a deck. Smaller, single-stage snow blowers rely on a rubber-tipped auger to pick up snow, throw it, and help propel the machine, saving weight and bulk. You can lift them onto a deck or porch, but they also require pushing in deep snow—unlike two-stage machines, which have driven wheels. And even top models such as the 21-inch Toro Power Clear 621 38458, $650, cost almost as much as a compact two-stage snow blower without performing as well. Two models to avoid: The Husqvarna STE621E, $650, and the similar Poulan Pro PR621ES, $450, which proved wimpier than even some electrics.
We also tested smaller corded-electric models such as the $200 GreenWorks 26032, which edged out Toro’s 1500 Power Curve and six other electrics. But we recommend sticking with gas for most jobs.